By Swati Deb
This is the story of two faceless and perhaps also little known women from the Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh. Both started from scratch but have made strides in culinary delight braving all odds and finally emerging successful winners.
In doing this they not only broke the stereotypes but also helped many other underprivileged women and unemployed youths. The highlight of their success is in being totally ‘self-made’ protagonists without any Government help or outside aid.
Yade Dujom was a poor girl from a remote village who lost her mother when she was just four. Today she is known as pickle queen of Arunachal Pradesh and her self-made but famous “Arunachal Pickle House” helps many deprived and depressed women like her in the Himalayan state.
After a series of struggles she launched the Arunachal Pickle House on February 14, 2022 and there has been no looking back. Through this small-scale business, she has been able to help people, mostly housewives. She has plans to upgrade her business, but has not yet got the support of investors due to the pandemic.
She started all on a very small scale using local raw material and employing women and youths of her area.
The story of Teri Yajo, another woman from the same Arunachal Pradesh state is however little different.
She is now one of the leading caterers of the state giving the established ones a run for their money.This has been made possible too within a span of a few months!
Owner of Jo’s Kitchen in Teri had a little bit of luck knocking at her door when a candidate who won in the local elections ordered food for his 2000 guests.
The order, though not that big, was much larger for Teri since she dabbled in preparing food on a very small scale.The first party led the foundation of great success. This gave her a head start and much needed confidence.
Till date, the catering business was monopolised by people from outside the state like Biharis, Marwaris and Bengalis. But now local people throng to Jo’s Kitchen for flavour and local taste with competitive prices.
In the case of Yede, she was brought up by her maternal grandmother who died and later her step mother who ill-treated her and her younger sister. But after passing out from school she managed to beat all the odds by doing all odds. Today Yede’s venture has helped her as well as a group of housewives, distressed by poverty, to be self-reliant.
Curtailing daily personal expenses, she started saving a small amount every month. Eventually, she got trained in food processing, label making and the usage of preservatives. She learnt the basics of pickle making from some women in Manipur sometime back and later underwent a proper training in her own state.
Now Yade is an expert in making both vegetarian and non- vegetarian pickles. The non-vegetarian varieties are made from fish, pork, chicken, beef and mithun (bovine species) meat and the vegetarian pickles from ginger, eggplant, capsicum, potato, radish and jackfruit. Besides pickle making, Yade has proved her mettle in cooking too after having won the second runner-up title at a state-level culinary competition.
She can cook local dishes, authentic Indian and Chinese cuisines too. Unlike other entrepreneurs, she does not take the whole profit. After the products are sold, she shares a part of the profit among the women who work for her.
Teri had a natural fascination for cooking from a young age. While studying in a residential school, she learnt to make Indian dishes.Her brother’s association with Bihari and Bengali friends also taught her many dishes. She also picked up Chinese cooking along the way. But she was neither confident nor had the money to invest in a set-up.
But luck smiled on her in 2018 when she won the competition and with it came a prize of Rs10, 000.
The competition was organised by the state tourism department in Itanagar.
A sum of Rs 10,000 was not a big prize money, but it gave her the confidence to foray into catering.
That gave her the needed confidence and soon after she went to Guwahati and purchased pots and pans to set up her own catering business, naming it Jo’s Kitchen. She used her savings of Rs 1.5 lakh to make purchases of all essentials and she took the plunge.
Life was not that rosy for Teri either. For some months, no orders came her way. She felt jittery and dejected.
COVID 19 Pandemic came in the way and business remained closed. But after the pandemic season for weddings and picnics started in Arunachal Pradesh with its pristine rivers, lush green forests and snow- capped Himalayas.
Families and organizations arrange picnics to scenic destinations to unwind. An acquaintance of Teri arranged a year end picnic and asked her to cook for the party of about 100 people. Her cooking skills ensured everyone had a sumptuous meal. Her culinary skills spread through word of mouth and she started getting orders for parties, celebrations and weddings.
With roaring success both the women are now happy; and so are their respective teams of women and unemployed local youths. These StartUp stories can give India a lead ahead on the path not treaded so much.